Dreamers and Dancers: Marbled Faces and Landscapes 1997-2017 by Martha Elizabeth
Martha Elizabeth is a Missoula writer and artist, best known for marbling-paint floated on thickened water and printed on paper or cloth. This show distills twenty years of her marbled faces and landscapes, a fluid universe of living masks and trees that dance. Martha earned an MFA in creative writing at UM in 1992 and took her first marbling workshop in 1993. Currently, she is writing plays and screenplays. Her marbled silk scarves are available at Rockin’ Rudy’s and Art Hang-Up in Missoula.
This show condenses twenty years of my marbled faces and landscapes, a fluid universe of living masks and trees that dance. To marble, I arrange paint on thickened water -a floating painting- and then lay paper or fabric across it for a one-of-a-kind print. I marble lots of decorative patterns, but the faces and landscapes are more rare, trickier, gifts from my subconscious. I tend to let the paint guide me. I’m intrigued by how colors react differently to surface tension, clumping or fraying according to their natures.
I first saw marbling demonstrated in Colonial Williamsburg on a grade school field trip, and I finally took a workshop in Missoula in 1993, a year after I finished graduate school. It wasn’t long before I tried to marble faces, but it took a while before they came to life and looked back at me from the marbling pan. I’ve always loved faces and masks. I remember my first glimpse of African masks when I was a child visiting the Virginia Museum on another school trip–it uprooted my notion of what a face could be.
I don’t remember when trees began to look like dancers. Maybe when I was taking ballet as a child? I think trees look like dancers even when not partnered with the wind. They seem like well-muscled creatures in tough form-fitting crinkled outfits, balancing their weight as they grow and reach for the sun, moving so slowly we cannot see the dance. Compared to trees, we move at a blur. Perhaps we too are dancing, unaware.
Martha Elizabeth has been marbling for twenty-four years. She earned an MFA in creative writing at UM in 1992. She thought she was studying art techniques as research for writing, but at last she had to admit that she loved art for its own sake. She won the final Montana Arts Council First Book Award for her poetry collection, The Return of Pleasure (1996). Currently she is writing plays and screenplays. Her marbled silk scarves are at Rockin’ Rudy’s and Art Hang-Up in Missoula.